Two men have pleaded guilty to copyright-infringement for distributing music, software and movies over the Internet in the first U.S. convictions for piracy over peer-to-peer networks.
William Trowbridge, 50, of Johnson City, N.Y., and Michael Chicoine, 47, of San Antonio, face up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 in the criminal convictions stemming from an August raid, the Justice Department said late Tuesday. Sentencing is set for April 29 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The recording industry has sued more than 7,000 individuals who copy its songs over popular peer-to-peer networks like Kazaa, and has urged the government to get involved. But authorities have to date largely concentrated on elite groups of hackers who steal and distribute movies, music and software before their official release dates, not the millions who share copyrighted material over peer-to-peer networks.
Trowbridge and Chicoine operated hubs in a file-sharing network that required members to share between 1GB (gigabyte) and 100GB of material, the equivalent of 250,000 songs, Attorney General John Ashcroft said when the raid was announced. Investigators downloaded material worth $25,000 from the two hubs, the Justice Department said.
Trowbridge and Chicoine each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit felony copyright infringement. They also pleaded guilty to acting for commercial advantage, the department said. Chicoine could not be reached for comment. A man at Trowbridge's residence referred requests for comment to an attorney, who could not be reached.